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DANISH WORD OF THE DAY

Danish word of the day: Vovehals

If you're someone who is a bit of a daredevil and doesn't always live by the rules, you'll soon find yourself acquainted with this Danish term.

What is vovehals?

Literally translated, a vovehals is a ‘dare-throat’, the word taking the verb ‘to dare’ (at vove) and throat (hals) and putting them together. The best English equivalent is probably daredevil, or someone prepared to take (sometimes unnecessary) risks. 

You might use the word for someone who likes to take risks to show how daring they are — by jumping from the highest springboard at a swimming pool even though they can’t dive, for example.

However, vovehals can also refer to someone who takes a step into the unknown and starts that business they’ve always dreamed of. As such, the term can be used both in admiration and derision, though the latter is arguably the more common. 

Why do I need to know vovehals

It’s easy to think of Danes as being a pragmatic nation of people who don’t take risks often, and that is perhaps reflected in the use of vovehals as well as an adjective, dumdristig (literally, “stupid-brave”) to describe excessive risk taking. There are several other synonyms for vovehals, too: you might also hear chancerytter (literally, “chance-jockey”) and the loan word desperado.

All of these words can be used to describe someone who is liable to throw themselves with abandon into life-threatening or dangerous, or merely risky, situations.

Incidentally, Danish also has a colourful antonym for vovehals: bangebuks (literally a “scared trouser”) is someone who is a coward or without courage.

Examples

Maverick var kendt som en værre vovehals, men så lærte han at styre sine impulser og blev en bedre pilot.

Maverick was known as a serious daredevil, but he learned to control his impulses and became a better pilot.

En vovehals blev meldt til politiet af flere bilister onsdag eftermiddag efter han kravlede til tops på Storebæltsbroen.

A daredevil was reported to police by several motorists on Wednesday afternoon when he climbed to the top of the Great Belt Bridge.

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DANISH WORD OF THE DAY

Danish expression of the day: Det ligner

It looks like an obvious choice for the word of the day. But is it?

Danish expression of the day: Det ligner

What is det ligner?

The verb at ligne is another example of a word that enables Danes to say something in fewer words than the equivalent sentence in English.

Meaning “to look like”, it normally has a straightforward use: han ligner sin mor, for example: “he looks like his mother”.

Arguably, there is an English verb directly equivalent to at ligne which would allow you to say the above sentence in neither more nor fewer words than the Danish version. “He resembles his mother” would also be an acceptable translation of han ligner sin mor. 

Despite this, I’d argue “looks like” is more accurate in most situations and contexts, because at ligne does not have the formal feel of written language that “resemble” conjures up.

Why do I need to know det ligner?

When you put the pronoun det (“it”) in front of the verb, making it “it looks like”, the use of at ligne can take on a different meaning.

In the sentence det ligner at det bliver regnvejr hele weekenden (“it looks like it will rain all weekend”), ligner drops its equivalence to “resemble” and, similar to “looks like”, can be used to make a prediction.

According to language regulator Dansk Sprognævn, this alternative use of det ligner has emerged in the last 20-25 years. That being the case, you could speculate that it has occurred as a result of an English phrase being adopted in Danish, even though it makes less sense in Danish in its original guise.

This is not necessarily true. Another way of talking about an uncertain future event in Danish is to say det ser ud til, approximately “it looks as though”. Det ser ud til at det bliver regnvejr is, in fact, probably closer to “it looks like it will rain” than any translation that uses det ligner.

Nevertheless, det ligner is a concise way of talking about something that looks likely to happen in the future. You would normally say it based on some form of evidence, rather than your own instinct: in the examples above, darkening grey clouds on the horizon would probably get people saying det ligner regnvejr.

Examples

Det lignede en sikker sejr for hjemmeholdet, men så lukkede de tre mål ind i anden halvleg.

It looked like a comfortable victory for the home team, but they conceded three goals in the second half.

Er du okay? Du ligner slet ikke dig selv.

Are you ok? You don’t look yourself at all.

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